The Potential

Addressing unmet medical need
The UK faces demographic pressures of an ageing population, an increase in chronic diseases, and greater consumer expectations of healthcare. Such factors are likely to lead to a higher demand for innovative products to diagnose, treat and manage a wide range of conditions. Medical devices and diagnostics have the potential to meet this demand and enable better long-term health outcomes for patients, for example by:

  • Improving quality of life / increasing life expectancy in many disease areas, including cardiovascular disease (interventional cardiology devices such as stents and pacemakers); diabetes (e.g. insulin delivery devices); and arthritis (orthopaedics devices such as joint replacements).
  • Helping to improve the patient experience - for example, innovative wound care products that reduce healing time and devices that enable minimally invasive surgery.
  • Effectively monitoring disease or injury - from devices to monitor blood glucose in people with diabetes, to sophisticated scanners. Technologies such as remote monitoring also help to increase independence by enabling older people or those with long-term conditions to receive treatment at or closer to home
  • Enabling fast and effective diagnosis - technology from diagnostic imaging (e.g. MRI scans) to in-vitro diagnostics (IvD)* is used to diagnose a huge range of conditions including cardiovascular risk, cancer and infectious diseases. The future of the IVD sector, and in particular molecular diagnostics (MDx), is closely linked to the development of smarter healthcare systems, which would incorporate prediction of disease susceptibility, earlier diagnosis and effective targeting of treatment. The major trends now are to both centralised and specialist laboratories for certain tests and to more localised ‘point-of-care’ (poc) diagnostics for others.

* In-vitro diagnostics technology is used to test samples (e.g. blood, tissue, urine) outside of the body (‘in-vitro’ means ‘in glass’ in Latin).

UK companies* currently working on innovative Medical Devices and Diagnostics to improve human health and quality of life include:

  • The Binding Site Group - specialises in producing highly sensitive and highly specific antibodies used for the detection of certain cancers and other serious disorders.
  • Brandon Medical - awarded the prestigious Queens Award for Enterprise in the Innovation Category 2011, for its HD-LED technology, used in operating theatre lights.
  • Dolomite Microfluidics - developing products and manufacturing processes to enable the next generation of diagnostic systems based on lab-on-a-chip technology.
  • Illumina - developed technology capable of extremely fast genetic sequencing that brings quick personalised genome analysis a step closer.
  • JRI - delivers innovative orthopaedic products, such as new shoulder implants offering improved function for patients and enabling simpler surgery.
  • Mediplus - developed CT 3000, the world’s first non-invasive system for measuring urine pressure in the diagnosis and treatment of prostate gland enlargement.
  • Lab 21 - developing and marketing a wide range of systems for the detection of everything from food intolerances to viruses.
  • Lumora - developing simple to operate systems for the wider use of diagnostic systems in the fields of infectious agents and genetic biomarker detection.
  • Ranier Technology - develops spinal implants for the treatment of degenerative disc disease.
  • Salts Healthcare - won an innovation award for their ostomy products.
  • Surgical Innovations - designs and manufactures creative solutions for minimally invasive surgery.

* This is a small selection of nearly 3000 companies in the UK, many of whom develop and produce their own devices or diagnostics.

Contributing to the UK economy

Market potential - estimates value the UK market for medical technology and supplies (including devices and diagnostic technology) at £5.3 billion, rising to £6.3 billion by 2015.

In 2010 the four largest segments within the sector, comprising almost 40% of the sector’s turnover, were single use technology, in-vitro diagnostics, orthopaedic devices and wound care - all with turnovers of over £1 billion.

The UK medical devices sector is the second largest in Europe, while the UK in-vitro diagnostics (IvD) market had the largest growth rate of all European countries in 2008-2009.

Size of the UK industry - In 2010 the sector (including devices and diagnostic technology) consisted of 3,304 companies generating a turnover of £13.1 billion and employing 55,000 people.

Around 200 UK companies are developing single use diagnostic or analytical devices, and about the same number are developing in-vitro diagnostic technologies, with around 100 developing diagnostic imaging technologies.

On the journey to commercialisation - UK companies lead Europe in having the largest number of medical devices undergoing clinical development for registration in the USA.